[A response to Alfian Sa’at’s rabid anti-American diatribe; published on TOC website as it was blocked on his site.]
Excerpted from his Facebook page, Alfian Sa’at wrote:
I remember making a joke when I was visiting New York last October: “It’s my last chance to visit the US before Trump becomes president and decides to ban Muslims.”
That offhand joke is now a real nightmare, and laughter has turned to bile in the throat.
I don’t intend to set foot on American soil again. The problem is that it’s easy to overlook the kinds of darkness that reside there because for a long time at least in a bipolar world, the US, compared to the Soviet Union, looked like the lesser of two evils. In addition there’s also something about soft power that throws a veil of gauze over sharp edges, that puts the horror into soft focus. America is in our earphones, in our cinemas, on our computer screens and smartphones, and all these help to domesticate its otherness. But alas that soft power is just a pretty collar on a dangerous animal and is not a leash.
There is an America, ostensibly, of Disney and jazz and Instagram. But there is also that other America of unending gun violence, mass incarcerations, a militarised police, a broken healthcare system, white nationalism, a history of Native American genocide and African slavery; an America that exports weapons, that installs puppets and brutal dictators, that undermines popular sovereignty and stages coups, that lies to the world about Weapons of Mass Destruction and steals oil and turns entire neighbourhoods into rubble. How much hatred there must be towards this factory whose main manufacturing products are widows and orphans. And how convenient that those who are anti-American are seen as people who are ‘radicalised’ instead of people who refuse to accept the narrative churned out by the American propaganda machine.
Trump has unmasked this other face of America, or at least made it more public than it ever was before. As a man voted in for being able ‘to say it like it is’, there is no better man for the job.
On the other hand there is an Iran, of unsmiling black robed mullahs and Hezbollah and Ahmadinejad. But there is also another Iran, of rose gardens and fountains and nightingales, of the poets Hafez and Ferdowsi, of some of the greatest films ever made by the likes of Abbas Kiarostami, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Jafar Panahi and Asghar Farhadi. I remember once wanting to visit Iran but wondering whether it would in any way jeopardise any future entry into the US. What foolishness that was. It is both a gift and a curse to be reading and writing in this language. One has access to so much knowledge, but at the same time how susceptible one becomes to American imperialism, one of whose effects is to think of America’s enemies as our own. America fears what it cannot bend to its will. By sharing this fear we are also bending to America’s will.
America wants to be safe. But who will keep the world safe from America?
February 19, 2017, Lester Kok responded:
Mr. Alfian Sa’at, you write from such a jaundiced angle towards America that if one were not to have a smattering of your profile background, would be tempted to pigeonhole you as some wacko card-carrying member of a flaming radical club of anti-American looney tunes. Let me summarize the problem with your article in a sentence: you have cavalierly swept the 21st-century scourge of Islamofascim under the rug and conveniently but disingenuously substitute it with American ‘imperialism’ as the present-day global bane. No, the nub of today’s problem of religious violence around the world lies not with Yankee Imperialism but with the dream world of Islamist Caliphate.
The demise of the ideological Cold War in the late eighties marks a new chapter in the renewal of what Samuel Huntington appropriately termed the clash of civilizations which is shaping up not just in the Middle East but from Southeast Asia to Europe and America — a clash that dates back to the latter half of the Middle Ages.
For more than 300 years the Crusaders waged indiscriminate wars on the Saracens with little to nothing to show for. And now the tables are turned as certain Islamist terrorists are resurrecting historical jihad against so-called infidels instead, indiscriminately killing anyone who stands in their way of reasserting themselves.
Even before Osama bin Laden openly declared war on America in 1996, there was the Bojinka plot in 1995 — fortunately thwarted — masterminded by Al-Qaeda operatives KSM and his nephew Ramzi Yousef to kill Pope John Paul ll and blow up 11 airliners from Asia to America. And after 9/11, during the 2 terms of the Bush presidency, there were in fact only 2 other Islamist terrorist attacks of note in America. But subsequent to that in the 2 terms under Obama, there were 13 major jihadist attacks on American soil. http://ijr.com/2016/07/650786-terror-attacks-bush-vs-obama-administration-so-far-presidency-list/
In retrospect then, is it any wonder the American electorate would plump for a tough-minded, Islamist terrorism combater in the White House? Imagine, if the ruling People’s Action Party were to be bedeviled with a dozen or so accursed Islamist attacks back to back for 8 years under its watch, PAP would very likely be voted out of office much like the feckless Democratic Party headed by Hillary.
The laundry list of America’s ills at home and abroad you pointedly delineated in your denigratory piece, reflected the challenges of being a prototypical liberal democracy and at the same time also an unrivaled superpower for the better part of the 20th century. To be sure, there were more mistakes and sins committed during her 240 years of nationhood than one can shake a stick at. But so were her saving graces; chief among which were those 500K American service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice in their selfless effort to put out the distant conflagrations of 2 world wars so that democracy, peace and order however imperfect to begin with were given a chance to flourish.
Finally, your explicit use of hyperboles to embellish your rabid anti-American contempt– such as ‘I don’t intend to set foot on American soil again’ and ‘It is both a gift and a curse to be writing in this language.’–verges on silly, pathetic mawkishness … I venture to predict your such gloop will come back to haunt you big time someday.
Tailpiece: Here’s a link to an Oxford Union debate that Alfian Sa’at could use to further debunk his misshapen mythological worldview of America.
Feb. 20, 2017 On Harry Chen’s Facebook, Lester Kok wrote:
Excuse the OT posting, just the same may I share with you here my recent counter argument to Alfian Sa’at’s Facebook anti-American propaganda (see above). While he’s not posing as a journalist with an obligation for at least some balance and objectivity, his totally skewed take in portraying America as the modern-day Iblis in an age of alternative facts, warrants an appropriate response — someone has to call him out on it.
Harry Chen I lost my respect for him several months ago when he sought to disassociate religious motivations from all the terrorist activities. He should have just kept his big mouth shut.